Watermarks in Words

By Jeff Kart

Video is one way to share your Great Lakes story. Words are another.

The IJC and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper are working together to capture memories about the five lakes as part of a Watermark Project. Some people have recorded videos at public events about personal, emotional and cultural connections to the lakes. Others are putting those thoughts into words on paper, or in this case, computer screens.

More than 70 Great Lakes Watermarks have been collected so far, most recently at March public meetings on progress under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

What’s your Great Lakes story? You can tell your tale here.

A sampling of written Watermarks is included below. They include the good and bad, from dirty water and debris to romance and recovery.


lake huron beach child
On Lake Huron. Credit: Tom Page

“Though I live in Buffalo, NY and have ancestry here and in southern Ontario, I grew up in Boston, MA and never liked the Great Lakes,” says Elizabeth Oldfield, near Lake Huron in Ontario.

“They were smelly, we weren’t allowed to swim in them when we visited, I didn’t bond with the lakes when we moved here to Buffalo in 2010. When I first swam in Lake Huron in Saugeen Shores, Ontario at Southhampton and Port Elgin, in the summer of 2012, I fell in love with the Great Lakes.” 

lake erie fog
On Lake Erie. Credit: Michael Scialdone

Judith Russo, near Lake Erie in New York, wrote: “Lake Erie is important to me because it gives us life and it feeds our soul.

“About ten years ago we started picking up plastic trash off the shore. I would bring 1 or 2 5-Gallon buckets, some days I would fill them both up with plastic trash that washes up on the shore.

“So I try to contribute to help make this planet more green. I moved to the area about ten years ago so we assume the trash was there before, but it’s become more of a problem recently.

“I’ve always been a water child and been close to the water, especially in the summer when I can go swimming as often as I like, and in between swims I collect plastic.”

Jo Johnson, also on Lake Erie in New York, shared a love story.

“Lake Erie was where me and my now husband had our first date, we went there really late at night and it smelt horrible, there was dead fish everywhere. We were in between the Windmills and Woodlawn beach. We were overwhelmed by the smell and it was only our second date ever, but we still had the time of our lives. There was a huge pile of wood debris from the water that washes up on shore and our dog was playing with the wood when all of a sudden a huge storm came. It was magical and we had our first kiss and that’s my fond memory of Lake Erie.”

frogs ontario lily pads
Frogs in Ontario. Credit: Emily

John Bacher says 12 Mile Creek in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is getting better.

“12 Mile Creek is the mouth of the Niagara River and feeds into Lake Ontario … It’s important because it provides habitat for the frogs and breeding amphibians like salamanders. It was shocking because I visited different urbanised areas of Niagara Falls and in the spring time which is breeding season, I couldn’t hear a single frog call.

“But now through awareness and eleven years of hard fought battling you can now go to those same spots and hear frog calls to the point where it drives people crazy. But it shows that with enough initiative you can drastically help to save habitats and ecosystems in your own backyard.”

Jeff Kart is executive editor of the IJC’s Great Lakes Connection and Water Matters newsletters.

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